In recent times both public opinion as well as health care professionals flagged intense concern about the increasing trend among teenagers to undergo breast enhancing surgery for no other reason than that of surrendering to the psychological pressure deriving from role model stereotypes.

Over the last years all kind of media, gossip magazines and sector specific commercial communication have been pushing more and more to establish unrealistic – not to say "virtual" – images of female beauty with fascinating attractiveness which young people (but also their parents) frequently are unable to resist or have not sufficient critical sense to oppose to.

According to recent surveys Italy ranks in top position as to the number of women in Europe undergoing breast enhancing surgery. Apparently minors of age sum up to a significant percentage of the group, a fact that increased public debate about the situation and induced the Italian House to look into the problem and to issue specific regulation.

On July 12th, 2012 Law no. 86 of June 25th, 2012 came into force and established to following key principles:

  • Minors of age (i. e. aged less than 18 years) may undergo breast implantations for merely aesthetic reasons,
  • health care professionals falling afoul of the ban will be sanctioned by a fine of Euro 20.000 as well as become subject to suspension from their profession for three months,
  • Breast implantations for merely aesthetical reasons may be performed exclusively by physicians specifically qualified in certain areas of surgery,
  • Special inventories – on a national and on a regional level – will be established and kept up to date in order to monitor both, the clinical status of subjects having undergone this kind of treatment as well as the characteristics and the effects of implants used (the basic aim is to achieve valuable information as to: type of implant used, its components, duration and labelling, collateral effects, potential impact on beast cancer and other pathologies),
  • Every two years the Department of Public Health will elaborate on the data collected and report its conclusions to the Italian Parliament.

Furthermore on July 5th, 2012 the National Committee for Bioethics issued additional guidelines on "Bioethical aspects in aesthetic surgery".

It goes without saying that the new provisions will have significant impact on commercial communication for implants and products used to the purpose. Companies producing such products and professionals performing implantations will need to consider all the restrictions applying to advertising targeted to – or capable of reaching – minors. In other terms, media directed primarily to an audience of minors will be off limits for such commercial communications. They'll also have to take into account "protected" broadcasting periods. Finally, from now on all their claims will be subject to a more accurate scrutiny as to their misleading potential. In the near future headlines such as "In less than three weeks breasts you're dreaming of" will easily steer a local watchdog's attention.

The problem is clearly one of general concern, addressed in several other jurisdictions in different ways. While the UK is considering a 'boob tax" meant to hit breast enhancing implantations with an additional cost of approximately 1.000 GBP, Belgium and France have taken stricter action and have issued total bans with respect to advertising of cosmetic surgery.

(as per September 2012)

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